Local filmmakers take on 48-hour challenge


Most short films take time to be made. There may be months of preparation, writing, filming and editing before a short film makes its way to the screen, but the 48 Hour Film Project turns convention on its head, challenging teams to put together a completed film in just two days.

The "48hr Party People" team at work during the Brisbane leg of the 48 Hour Film Project

The “48hr Party People” team were pushed to their limits during the Brisbane leg of the 48 Hour Film Project. Photo: Emily Stein

The 48 Hour Film Project bills itself as “a wild and sleepless weekend in which you and a team make a movie – write, shoot, and edit – in just 48 hours”, following a genre that is drawn out of a hat on Friday night. Teams are also given a character, a prop and a line that they must include in their films, which must be four to seven minutes long. On Sunday night there is a “wild dash” to the drop off event, where the finished films are handed in. The films are then screened at a local theater in front of an audience of filmmakers, friends and families.

And although there is a Brisbane leg of the 48 Hour Film Project and a Brisbane winning team, this is no local competition.

In fact, the competition, which got its start in Washington, DC, in 2001, takes place in 130 cities across six continents. The filmmaking teams that win the competition in each city are invited to screen their films at Filmapalooza, an international event where filmmakers compete for the title of “Best Film”.

Not surprisingly, the 48 Hour Film Project pushes participants to their creative limits, with each team pushing to make the deadline and complete a brand new short film by the end of their 48 hour period.

The winner in each competing city also receives a trophy and editing software, in addition to the chance to screen their film at Filmapalooza.

Vicky Wanless, Anthony Miller and Justin Hartwell were part of a team competing in this year’s Brisbane round of the 48 Hour Film Project, which took place from August 10 to 12.

In the month leading up to the competition weekend, the team, known as the “48hr Party People” held meetings to discuss the competition and source multiuse locations, choose cast and crew members, and begin brainstorming plots for each of the possible genres.

“The tricky thing about this is that we just have no idea what they’re going to throw at us”, cinematographer Justin Hartwell said.

“We could get things that completely clash, like a space journey and a kiddie pool, and we have to find some kind of way to link it all together,” he said.

Wanless, Miller and Hartwell were joined by 13 filmmaking enthusiasts who had worked on previous productions, including six people from Miller’s own production company, Mad Antz Productions, a small company that shot a short film called B&E, which is due to be released later this year.

Miller said he was thrilled to be able to bring members from his team into this challenge.

“It’ll be a rough 48 hours for all of us, but we’ve done long shooting days before so we can handle it,” he said.

Vicky Wanless and Justin Hartnell review footage during a break in filming

Vicky Wanless and Justin Hartnell review footage during a break in filming their competition entry, One Shot One Kill. Photo: Emily Stein

So, what happened in those 48 hours? Read on.

The cast and crew were in high spirits when they entered the 7pm kick off event at the Myer Centre in Brisbane. The team received their genre, character, prop and line, and then headed to the 24-hour Pancake Manor to write the script they would shoot the next day.

The team had been given “time travel” as their genre, “Mara Lockwood” as their character, “a toy car” as a prop and the line “I just can’t wait any longer” to work with, and the clock was now ticking.

They began to create a story based on a time traveller going back to the past to warn some “Aussie bloke tradies” from the 1970s about the future of the site they were on, including some jokes on the topics of gay marriage, technology and politics.

The story was scrapped when the team realised it was leaning too far away from time travel and pushing into the comedy genre, and at 10pm they started from scratch again.

“We are just getting too bogged down with trying to be funny,” Hartwell said.

“So we are stripping it back and going to try to keep it as close to the brief as possible.”

The team took half an hour of batting ideas around before finally deciding on a storyline for the new script: Time travelling bounty hunters with an old grudge would travel back in time to take out the boss of an underground crime ring.

“See, now this adheres to the genre a lot more, we might actually have a shot,” Wanless said.

“I’m excited to see how we go tomorrow.”

Once the basic story idea was locked down, Miller, Wanless and Hartwell were left to write the script, allocating roles and distributing call sheets to the crew before calling it a night at 2am.

Saturday August 11 was shooting day, and the cast and crew met at 7am in an industrial yard in Capalaba for a briefing.

The shot order was planned, jobs were assigned to the crew, and the team hit the ground running to get all their shooting done that day.

Actor Matthew Swift took his role seriously during the 48 Hour Film Project shoot

Actor Matthew Swift took his role seriously during the 48 Hour Film Project shoot. Photo: Emily Stein

Tensions were, not surprisingly, high, as some crew members fought against directions given by Miller and Wanless.

“We are running out of time and we don’t have time for this stuff,” Miller said.

“If people aren’t going to be here in every sense then they might as well go off.”

By 6pm, the team had finished the exterior shoots and a final scene needed to be shot inside before editing could start.

Tiredness had set in and the creative team had begun second-guessing their script. Some of the scenes they were shooting were too vague to work into the storyline.

It took another halt to production in an already long day before the final few scenes were rewritten and shot, allowing filming to wrap up for the day.

It was then up to Miller, Wanless and editor Zac Lovett to edit the footage together. With the 48-hour deadline looming, the last-minute hiccup of a corrupted USB almost prevented the team from submitting on time. In the end, the film, called One Shot One Kill, was submitted with just 30 minutes to spare.

“We just made it and I am so proud of all the efforts by our team,” Wanless said.

“I can’t wait to see it screened with all the other films.”

The awards for the Brisbane leg of the competition, including “best film”, “best director” and “best cinematography”, will be announced this week.

The winning film from the Brisbane round of the competition will screen at Filmapalooza in Orlando, Florida, from March 6 to 9, 2019.

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